Former Vodafone employee claims pension changes cost him €1m

Former Vodafone employee claims pension changes cost him €1m

A former Vodafone employee who claims a change to the company pension scheme cost him more than €1 million in lost benefits is entitled to have his complaint heard by the pensions watchdog, the High Court has ruled.

The Trustees of the Vodafone Ireland Pension Plan had challenged a finding by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman that retired Vodafone employee Gerry Fahy had brought his complaint over the scheme within the prescribed time limit for making complaints.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons found there were no grounds for interfering with the ombudsman’s determination that Mr Fahy’s complaint was made within time.

The Vodafone pension trustees, in their judicial review challenge against the ombudsman, in which Mr Fahy was a notice party, claimed the ombudsman was incorrect in his decision.

Mr Fahy was a member of the pension scheme which was amended in May 2012, just a few months after he retired.

He contended the amendment did not affect his pension entitlements in circumstances where he had retired prior to the coming into force of the amended rules.

The pension provider disputed this interpretation of the effect of the amendment.

Mr Fahy made his complaint to the ombudsman in August 2018 after he was provided with a statement setting out his pension benefits.

Mr Justice Simons said it was apparent from the statement that the transfer value of his pension benefits had been calculated on the basis that the amended rules were applicable to his circumstances, notwithstanding his retirement from the company in 2011.

The differential between the two bases of calculation was very significant: were the amended rules to apply, his benefits reduced by more than €1 million, the judge said.

Amendment

The pension provider argued that, for the purpose of the time limit for making a complaint, the time should be taken as running from 2012 and not from 2018.

Mr Fahy, it was argued, was outside the maximum six-year time limit as his complaint was made in August 2018 and the amendment was made in May 2012.

It was also argued the transfer value provided to Mr Fahy represented no more than the reflection of the “mathematical consequences” of the amendment.

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